What’s that sound? It’s the initial spark of your new client relationship. It’s that first moment of mutual understanding and alignment where you and your client realize you’re on the same page. They’re looking for specific products or services, and your firm can give them exactly what they need.
The spark doesn’t just signify the beginning of a transaction. It’s the onset of a relationship built on trust, mutual respect and a shared drive toward success. But without the right attention and nurturing, the spark can quickly fade…and turn into ash.
So, how do you stoke the fire and keep the flames burning? It takes an intentional—and consistent—effort. And I have five tips to share on improving client engagement that can help you keep that effort alive.
Create clarity in your business model
You may be thinking, “John, you and Darren talk about having a clear business model all the time.” You’re right; we do. But having a clearly defined business model creates success in your firm and client relationships. And that’s why it’s my first tip for improving client engagement.
Just like fire needs three elements (i.e., fuel, oxygen and heat) to create that initial spark, so does your business model.
- WHO (the FUEL). Knowing who you serve is the first step. It’s knowing who your ideal clients are. (Hint: They’re the ones you love to serve and are great at serving.)
- WHAT (the OXYGEN). Be clear on the products and services you offer. Remember, you decide what you want to provide. Don’t let non-ideal clients dictate your offerings.
- HOW (the HEAT). Determine the way you’ll deliver your products and services, and create your tech stack around that.
When you ensure your business model is clear and transparent, clients easily see the value you provide. With the three basic elements of your business model, you’re setting up your firm to ignite the spark of client engagement.
Deposit into a client’s emotional bank account
Once you’ve sparked that initial flame, you must stoke the fire to keep it going. Like any relationship, the client-accountant dynamic has an emotional component. And that brings me to my next tip for improving client engagement: Making regular deposits into their emotional bank account.
If you’re not familiar with this concept, author and motivational speaker Stephen R. Covey talks about it in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” We make deposits and withdrawals to our emotional bank accounts, including those of our family, friends and, yes, even clients. Positive actions such as open and honest communication, kindness and integrity are considered deposits. And withdrawals typically take the form of disrespect, lack of communication and missed deadlines.
Much like a bank account, you want to be in the black—not the red. Small gestures like sending a congratulatory email when they’ve hit a financial milestone or checking in consistently can make a huge difference. Regular deposits provide a tidy amount of capital. And that helps keep the fire burning in a successful relationship.
Maintain consistent and proactive communication
Nothing can smother a spark in a relationship more quickly than radio silence. That’s why tips on improving client engagement typically focus on a fundamental element: communication. And I don’t just mean communicating here and there; I mean proactive communication.
If you bring a new client on board and they don’t hear from you…they may think you see them as just a number or someone to sell to. Don’t sit around and wait for a client to call when they need something. You need to make it a point to know what they need and proactively reach out to them. That’s a mistake we see firms make time and again.
You have to move away from being transactional and start being relational. If the only time you interact with a client is when you provide a service and they pay you, you’re doing it wrong. Clients can go anywhere for transactional services. You want them to come to you because you provide consistent and proactive communication. You want them to succeed and be part of your close-knit community. Don’t be transactional—be relational.
Implement a client engagement officer
At this point, you may wonder how you can make deposits into your clients’ emotional bank accounts or provide consistent communication. It’s something we hear from firms regularly. We get it. You’re busy running your firm and doing your job. The busier you are, the less of a priority client engagement becomes. So, how can you keep that spark alive?
With my next tip on improving client engagement, of course. And that’s by putting someone in charge of it (i.e., a client engagement officer). You need someone who can stoke the fire and keep it burning for the long haul. And chances are this person already exists on your staff.
The role of the client engagement officer (CEO—yes, that can be confusing) isn’t just about facilitating interactions. It’s about curating an experience that keeps the flame going throughout the client relationship. This position includes someone who:
- Doesn’t wait for touchpoints to happen; they create them. CEOs are a step ahead of communication—setting up regular check-ins, anticipating client needs and even creating events that help clients feel included within your firm community.
- Ensures there’s a systematic approach to gathering client feedback. This could be done through surveys or one-on-one sessions to keep a pulse on client satisfaction. This helps ensure your firm remains adaptive and responsive to your clients’ needs.
- Takes charge of providing clients with valuable resources, whether it’s educational content, reports on the latest tax changes, or new products or services that they may be interested in.
Let the CEO be the stoker and keep that flame burning bright.
Use data to surface what clients actually need
My next tip for improving client engagement is to use data to your advantage. We know that data reigns supreme. As accountants, you have a lot of it—all at your fingertips. A tool like Insights uncovers data that can help you provide proactive advisory services. It takes the data you already have and gives you actionable insights to help your clients make informed business decisions. Use applications that uncover the data you need to service your clients better.
Apply these tips on improving client engagement
Viewing client interactions as purely transactional is a thing of the past (and is like throwing water on a flame). Authentic engagement comes from viewing and nurturing the relationship as an ongoing partnership. Engaging clients is like maintaining a healthy, roaring fire; it requires constant attention and understanding of the fundamental principles that keep it alive. By following these tips on improving client engagement, you’ll turn transactional into relational.
What’s that sound? It’s your client relationship, burning brightly and going strong!
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